My Story – MaryAnn
As Tiffany, Christina and I talked about our ideas for Play Eat Grow in 2016, one goal is to share a little bit more about our own stories. So, for our “Grow” posts this month, we will be telling you about how we each became followers of Jesus. Last week you heard Christina’s story. Here’s Tiffany’s. Today it’s my turn! –MaryAnn
I grew up as a PK, which if you’ve been around the church long enough you know means a “Pastor’s Kid”. Maybe you’ve heard some rumors about us pastor’s kids. Like that we spend our whole lives at church until we go off to college and then we go completely wild. Yes, that does happen in some cases, but it’s not my story.
I became a Christian at the young age of six. I’m not sure if I actually remember it, or if I just remember remembering it with others. My Dad sat and talked with me and asked if I wanted to invite Jesus into my heart. I said yes and did so very quickly, but accidentally left out the part about believing that he died on the cross for my sins. Then my Dad suggested that perhaps that part was important to include, so we had a little ps prayer about that. And from then on I was a totally perfect child and I never disobeyed my parents or lied to them or bit my sisters or anything like that. Ok, well maybe that’s not exactly what happened.
Some people say that young children can’t really accept Jesus because they don’t fully understand what it means. I don’t buy that (which is a good thing because now I’m a grownup who sometimes has trouble “fully understanding” the gospel). I think I understood what was important for a child to understand. I knew that I had done bad things. I believed that God loved me and that he sent his Son to earth to die so that I could have my sins forgiven. And because I had the privilege of accepting Jesus at such a young age, that prayer was just the beginning of my story.
During my growing up years, I was a pretty typical kid, but perhaps my family was not the typical family. My parents did a wonderful job making sure that my sisters and I knew that God was real and that he cared about us personally. There may have been things that were easier if we had had more money, but because we didn’t, I had the opportunity to see God provide for our family in really miraculous ways. He answered our prayers. He cared about us! No, things were not always the way we wanted them. But I never doubted that God was real and that he loved me.
I think that every person who becomes a Christian as a child has to, at some point (or perhaps over a period of time), cross a bridge where faith becomes your own. For me, one big step on that journey happened when my family moved from Seattle, WA to northern NJ during the middle of eight grade. Talk about culture shock! One of the major differences was that we moved to a very wealthy area, but since my Dad was working as the youth pastor at a local church, I was definitely not in the same socio-economic sphere as my classmates. And boy did I feel that difference! Being new was hard. Being “poor”(ish) was hard. Having everyone know that my Dad was a pastor and I was a Christian was hard. It became a thing at school – kids trying to get me to swear and stuff like that – or talking about things in front of me that they knew would embarrass me. It really made me think. It was the first time that being a Christian had actually cost me anything. Up until then it had been pretty easy! Now I didn’t have any friends and part of the reason was that everyone thought I was a goody-two-shoes. But in the end I realized that I truly did believe that God was real and that he loved me. He had not changed just because my circumstances had changed. In that move across the country I lost an awful lot. But it made me realize that sometimes that’s going to happen in life, and that God is the one thing I can never ever lose.
There’s been a lot of ups and downs in my life since then. There have been times when I felt incredibly close to Jesus, and other times when I related to a song lyric that says to the Lord, “Wasn’t it you I gave my heart to? I wish you’d remember where you set it down.” I’ll share one moment from my life as a young adult that has helped me deal with those ups and downs.
I used to backpack every summer with my dad, and one summer we camped next to this beautiful lake up in the Adirondack mountains and truly had a wonderful and amazing weekend together. The next summer I led a hiking trip to the same lake, only the weather was horrible, and frankly, so was my life. The guy I had been dating had dumped me (incidentally he’d been on the trip the first time I came to the lake). I was living just outside of NYC when 9/11 hit, and that had taken a big toll. I’d had mono for six months while being a full-time school teacher. It was NOT a good moment in my life. But as I stood at a rocky outcropping next to the lake – fog so thick I could hardly see more than a few feet in front of me – I remembered what it had looked like the last time I was there. Clear blue sky and mountains reflecting in the beautiful lake. And I thought, “I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is a beautiful view from this place. I just can’t see it right now.” And so I cried and I prayed that God would help me to believe that even though my life felt bleak at that moment, he would give me hope in knowing that he had a beautiful plan.
As I reflect on my life thus far, I have my fair share of regrets. Of course there are things I would go back and do differently if I had the chance! But I don’t regret exercising the faith of a child when I accepted Jesus at the age of six. And I don’t regret deciding to follow him as a teenager, even when it meant years of not having any friends. I don’t regret that as young adult I made choices I thought would honor him. My life will continue to have challenges and joys, but through it all I know that Jesus will be with me. I know that he loves me and he’s making something beautiful out of my life.